LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Two months into the school year and the debate over masks is far from over.
A group of parents in the Pulaski County Special School District is the latest to take up the fight, petitioning the school board to call a special meeting and reverse its current mask mandate. Currently, all students and staff are required to wear face coverings indoors and have been since August.
The ability to petition a public-school board comes from Arkansas code and requires the signatures of 50 school district electors to request a special-called meeting. Those organizing the petition also want the meeting to be done in a way where parents and community members can speak directly to board members and share their thoughts.
According to the school board, district leaders are aware of the petition and are working with an attorney to decide the best course of action. Since there’s a regularly scheduled board meeting just two weeks away, the district has yet to decide if they will hold the meeting until then or call a special meeting within the time frame laid out in the petition.
For Karyn Maynard and Rebekah Davis, two of the creators of the petition, October 12th was the final straw. The Pulaski County Special School District had just decided to continue their mask mandate for another two months, a move that upset some parents who felt it took away their choice.
“We decided we’d had enough,” Maynard said. “The school has to ask me permission to give my child a Tylenol who’s 16, but they don’t have to ask permission to put a mask on her all day.”
They add that they’re not anti-mask, just anti-mandate, and feel it should be up to the parent to decide if the kids mask up or not.
However, some parents who are pro-mandate say it’s the only way to mass protect kids who currently can’t be vaccinated.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of downsides to masks,” PCSSD mom and doctor Rachael Freeze-Ramsey said. “I don’t think there’s really anything negative about them.”
She added that a third COVID wave could come in the next few months and masking up now could help protect a premature outbreak in schools.
Right now, the school district says they’re going over the petition in detail to make sure everything was filled out properly. Davis adds that if the meeting doesn’t go their way, they could be looking at legal action.